By Brett Tieman
“The names of both of these girls can be found all over the cross country and track record boards. They are two of the top female distance runners ever to come through BSHS.” – Head cross country and track distance coach Matthew Johnson
The girls track team has seen plenty of success this season, earning a top-three finish in every meet so far and winning two. A large part of this success is girls distance runners senior Elaina Hubner and junior Tessa Valdivia.
Their accolades are many: both girls have been varsity in cross country and track since their freshman years. Both are two-time All-State runners in cross country. Hubner has one All-State medal in track; Valdivia has earned four. The success seen from these two is unprecedented at BSHS.
“The names of both of these girls can be found all over the cross country and track record boards. They are two of the top female distance runners ever to come through BSHS,” head cross country and track distance coach Matthew Johnson said.
Johnson noted that earning all the honors that these two have achieved takes a large amount of “commitment and effort” which is the backbone of the track program.
“Tessa and Elaina are the epitome of these most important values that our girls distance running program stands by. Tessa and Elaina are both talented athletes, but the growth they have both experienced as runners proves how commitment and effort are the most important factors,” he said.
Johnson discussed not only their practice habits but their work ethic outside of practices as well. “Their dedication extends well beyond the seasons in which they compete for the team. Tessa and Elaina put so much of their free time in the offseason into improving as runners and it has been great to see their hard work pay off. They have sacrificed so much to achieve team and individual success,” Johnson said.
Having each other is one thing about the two that helps them compete at such a high level as well. Over the years they have formed a strong bond that has helped them elevate their skills.
“Tessa’s like my best friend. I love her so much. We really pull each other; like if I’m having a bad race, or if I’m not pushing hard enough, she’ll get in front of me and pull me forward, and if she’s having a bad race, I’ll get in front of her and pull her forward. We just switch off taking the weight of the race, and it allows us to compete against each other just like we do at practice,” Hubner said.
Competition at practice is another thing that really prepares both for meets, as being able to compete with someone at the same level at all times pushes both to new heights.
“Tessa is always there to push me through workouts. It’s nice to know I have someone next to me who is just as fast as me. It’s always great to have that reminder that there is someone who trains just as hard as you, and it motivates you to work harder,” Hubner said.
The relationship that has formed between Hubner and Valdivia extends to the entire distance team as well. Hubner cites the main reason she loves running, other than winning, as the family that she gets from the team.
“The distance team is always together. We meet up in the morning and walk to class together, and we hang out outside of school which is like having my best friends around me all the time,” Hubner said.
Hubner and Valdivia have become great leaders for their teammates to go to for help as well, and their teammates can find that help, not only by asking them but by watching them too.
“Both girls have a wealth of experience to share with the other runners, they compete hard in races and work hard in practices as much for their teammates as they do for themselves. The other girls on the team don’t have to look any further than what they see Tessa and Elaina doing every day to know what it’s going to take to advance themselves to the next level as a runner,” Johnson said.
Valdivia and Hubner each share that experience in a different way. Johnson describes Valdivia as a “silent leader” who teammates can watch and see the example of what hard work and dedication looks like, while Hubner is a “vocal leader” who teammates can go to if they have a question or need advice.
“I say what needs to be said, and then Tessa just does it. She leads by example; if you look over at Tessa, she is always doing what she needs to be doing and when people come to me, I’ll tell them what to do if they don’t know,” Hubner said.
Different personalities and ways of showing leadership have formed a great dynamic between the two. With Hubner ready to graduate and head out to compete at Washburn, Valdivia will have to overcome losing her main partner for the last three years.
“It has worked well having two leaders that are very different, yet complementary to each other. The part that Tessa might miss the most, is that she is losing a training partner to graduation. At the same time, this could be considered an opportunity for Tessa to take the next step forward in her running career,” Johnson said.
Even without her partner, Johnson feels that the experience Valdivia has had with Hubner will allow for a seamless transition of leadership.
“I think what Tessa and Elaina have learned from each other through different experiences will help Tessa to step into that ‘Senior Captain’ role. Tessa, along with junior Reese Howard, will be able to lead this team to the next level of our development as a program pretty much seamlessly,” Johnson said.
With another year nearly wrapped up, Johnson looks at the toll that all the running puts on a person, and how the endurance that they show through it all will help each of these girls in the future.
“Distance running is very hard on a person’s body, not just physically, but emotionally, and mentally as well. Throughout their three or four years in the program, they have had to endure many ups and downs; successes and failures. I firmly believe that what they have put themselves through as teenagers has helped to prepare them for the ups and downs; and successes and failures that life will bring,” Johnson said.
While Johnson looks towards their futures, Hubner reminisces on the bonds that she has formed in her four years running and how that will help her in the future.
“I learned to love so much from my teammates. They’re like the best people I’ve ever met and they’ve taught me so many lessons, so I’m going to cherish all the time that I’ve had with them,” Hubner said.
The final stretch of the season is in sight as these two girls and their teammates look to continue to show their skills at Blue Springs South for the Conference Championship Meet tomorrow.